[JURIST] The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) [official website] officially launched [press release; fact sheet and FAQs, PDFs] Thursday, taking over and expanding the responsibilities of the former European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) [official backgrounder]. The new independent agency [JURIST report] will initially study issues of racial, gender, and religious tensions in the European Union [JURIST news archive] caused by large influxes of immigrants, but will eventually study other fundamental rights issues as well. Through its mandate [PDF text] the body has authorization to conduct studies, collect data, raise awareness, and advise the EU and its member states. It does not have the power to examine individual complaints, nor can it act in any regulatory capacity.
Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called the FRA a "step in the right direction" but also heavily criticized the limited nature of the agency's mandate [press release]. AI characterized the mandate negotiations as being more about protecting member states than about holding member states to account for rights violations. Despite its reservations, AI said that it looks forward to working with the FRA in its studies of racism and discrimination. AP has more.